Senate.gov, December 10, 2014 - Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand announced that the Omnibus spending bill – a must-pass bill that funds the federal government through the end of the fiscal year – includes $368,086,000 for the Presidential Helicopter program and $100 million for the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) program, two major helicopter construction projects being undertaken by a team of Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego.
The bill, along with the funding allotment for these two helicopter programs, will be voted on by the House and Senate as early as this week. Once the bill clears Congress it will head to the President’s desk for his final signature.
These two appropriations come on the heels of July’s announcement by the United States Air Force (USAF) that it had awarded a $1.28 billion contract – which could rise as high as $8 billion – to Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego to begin building a new fleet of 112 CRHs and the announcement in May that the U.S. Navy had awarded a $1.24 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego to begin building a new fleet of 21 Presidential Helicopters. This appropriation would help enable Lockheed to keep both programs on or ahead of schedule.
“This is a major milestone in our quest to secure the funding needed to build these state-of-the-art helicopter fleets in Owego. These programs are vital to Lockheed Martin and the entire Southern Tier economy. The inclusion of this provision in the omnibus bill will give Lockheed the funding it needs to get these helicopters moving down the assembly line,” said Senator Schumer. “All we need now is for this bill to pass both the House and the Senate, and then the request heads straight to the President’s desk. I am urging my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers of Congress to vote for this bill and help us create and maintain hundreds of jobs in the Southern Tier, keep our President safe, and support our troops serving around the world.”
“This important funding will support hundreds of good-paying manufacturing jobs for New Yorkers,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Upstate New York’s proud manufacturing tradition put us on the map and helped give flight to the Marine One and Combat Rescue Helicopters. And by securing strong investments like this, we can continue to attract new businesses and new jobs that can support a family, and strengthen our economy and our national security. This is how we can see more ‘Made in America’ manufacturing again.”
Combat Rescue Helicopter
In June, the United States Air Force (USAF) announced it had awarded a $1.28 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego to begin building a new fleet of 112 CRHs, which are used by the military to extricate troops from dangerous situations and bring them home safely. The contract is expected to sustain a large portion of the workforce at Lockheed Martin Owego for the next decade and create hundreds of other indirect jobs at local vendors and suppliers. Schumer fought for years to ensure that building a new fleet of CRHs continued to be a priority for the USAF, after the program’s future – and a potential major contract for Lockheed Martin Owego – was brought into doubt due to an internal USAF restructuring debate.
Lockheed Martin Owego will be specifically tasked with developing the defensive systems, data links, mission computers, adverse weather sensors, mission planning systems and system integration of the CRH. Schumer and Gillibrand explained that the new CRH fleet is necessary as the current fleet of rescue aircraft dates back to the 1970s, and is now outdated after years of chronic use and combat damage.
The USAF announced in 2010 that it would replace its aging and increasingly outdated combat rescue helicopter fleet—called the HH-60G PAVE HAWK helicopters—with new aircraft capable of performing demanding personnel recovery missions, including combat rescue and casualty evacuation. Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin Owego then offered a proposed helicopter design – the CRH-60 – that would modernize the USAF’s aging combat rescue helicopter fleet and support all services needed in combat. This new CRH program will eventually replace the aging HH-60G legacy fleet with 112 new combat rescue helicopters. This new aircraft features increased internal fuel capability and additional internal cabin space.
Last year, Schumer visited Lockheed Martin Owego, called the Former Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to publicly support the CRH program, explaining that the current fleet of aircraft for the mission were outdated and the military needed new and more capable helicopters. In January, Schumer announced that, after his continued efforts with top defense officials, the FY2014 Appropriations Bill included funding for the Air Force’s CRH, which is now part of the allocation going to Lockheed Martin. In February, Senators Schumer and Gillibrand sent a letter to Secretary Hagel urging him to support the next generation CRH and to fully fund it across the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). Earlier this year, Schumer urged the current Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James to award this contract and get the program running, as it will help the Air Force recover downed aircrew and isolated personnel in hostile environments.
The 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard, located in Westhampton Beach, is a combat search and rescue unit, using combat rescue helicopters to complete their vital mission.
In May, the U.S. Navy announced it had awarded a $1.24 billion contract to Sikorsky Aircraft and Lockheed Martin Owego to build a new fleet of Marine One helicopters that are used to transport the President of the United States. Lockheed Martin Owego is being tasked with manufacturing and installing the helicopters’ mission communications systems and will also provide the maintenance training device and procedures trainer. Additionally, the presidential helicopters will receive executive paint in Owego. The contract is expected to create or sustain high-skilled jobs in Owego. In 2009, Schumer secured a continuance to support Lockheed Martin’s involvement in Naval Helicopter Programs and visited Lockheed Martin Owego last year to support the Sikorsky-Lockheed Martin bid for the new fleet of Marine One helicopters.
The current fleet of presidential helicopters is comprised of Sikorsky Black Hawk/Sea King models that are 35 and 40 years old, and they are in desperate need of replacing. The Navy contract is for a fleet of 23 new presidential helicopters, 21 for use and 2 for testing.
In 2009, as the previous presidential helicopter program was canceled, Senator Schumer worked with leaders in the Administration and appropriators to mitigate damage and negative job impact by negotiating a compromise that provided $100 million in funding to Lockheed Martin for mission systems and other technology work. As a result, 250 engineer jobs were saved at the Lockheed Martin Owego location, which helped minimize job losses.